The bogus cash drop triggered a backlash with calls to boycott The Safety Warehouse and demands for real cash.
One disgusted participant started a Change.org petition demanding real money from those holding the vouchers and planned a police complaint, saying that $ 5 bill-like coupons had been scattered in the crowd in Aotea Square, Auckland.
More than 1,000 people gathered in the square at noon yesterday after the company promoted plans to drop $ 100,000 from the sky.
But chaos erupted as the crowd rushed forward to catch the counterfeit money fired from what looked like a gun.
Outraged audience members, including John Murphy of Levin, called the event a waste of time and claimed that many of the attendees were from poor backgrounds and felt cheated.
The owner of the company, Andrew Thorn, previously said he really gave away $ 100,000.
But Murphy said participants only received coupons designed to look like $ 5 bills.
“I was at this event expecting it to be the climax of my short trip to Auckland, only to be a disaster,” said Murphy.
He has since launched a petition that has more than 280 signatories demanding that The Safety Warehouse convert the coupons issued at the event into real cash.
“I know people outside of Auckland who are stuck. A lot of us, including myself, got injured, ”added Murphy.
“People pushed and pushed and pounced on each other, trying to get what looked like real money.”
He said one person who appeared to be the organizer shared the ridiculous suggestion that the $ 5 vouchers could be redeemed for real money at a bank.
Murphy also said he would ask the police to investigate whether the vouchers could be considered counterfeit.
Thorn did not pick up the phone or send back a message on Sunday.
But before that, he said the company had already given away real money, with fake money rebates and 40,000 coupons printed.
He said an employee was taken to the hospital after the crowd got angry and an object thrown through the back window of a service car smashed glass in his eyes.
The trick “sold out”
A marketing professor at Massey University said the company should apologize and hire a good public relations firm to help save its reputation.
Professor Malcolm Wright told Radio New Zealand the stunt undermined customer confidence.
“I don’t think they’re going to cheat, of course they wouldn’t be cheating.” Someone just sold out and went a little too far.
But some of the participants were furious.
“I wasted gas, time and money … I could spend the day doing something more productive,” wrote a Papakura woman in a Murphy petition.
“Wasted time, injured children, deceived all of us, made us look foolish,” said another signatory.
Cam Hore wrote: “What a bloody disgrace. Everyone who attended the event should be paid and the company should be fined for misleading people. “
Jon Duffy, CEO of Consumer NZ, said any company doing a promotion must make sure it can comply with the terms of the promotion.
“If the company had not actually donated $ 100,000 in cash to this event, it could have been in breach of the Fair Trading Act regarding bait advertising.”
Fair trade law prohibited anyone from advertising a good or service at a certain price if it had no intention of delivering it.
“Bait advertising is when you advertise something that is a really good deal to get people to your door, but then you don’t pursue it,” said Duffy.
“Once you have them, try selling them for something else.”
“We understand that people were getting coupons for counterfeit money that was distributed here, which gave them some sort of special offer,” added Duffy.
“If that’s all on offer, then this offer can be deceiving. I think we’ll just have to see what happens. “
“I haven’t seen real money [but] it looks like the event didn’t go as the company hoped it.
“And apparently people didn’t get what they thought they got.”
The event was said to thank the New Zealanders for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thorn said he founded the Safety Warehouse through his Christchurch-based Greenback Capital to supply workwear, and then moved to masks, hand sanitizers, and other equipment when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.